Author: OLIVIA DEVEREUX-EVANS
The Home Secretary’s plan to turn back migrant boats is not being implemented by border force for fear it will lead to the death of more migrants.
Yesterday, the home office said a record 853 migrants crossed the channel on Wednesday.
It takes the total number this year to 21,050 which is double the number for all of last year.
In separate incidents this week, three migrants died trying to cross the channel.
Priti Patel announced her plan to turn back migrants in a Tory conference last month after she took legal advice, according to the Times.
Border Force has rejected requests to use Ms Patel’s new strategy, citing objections such as weather and size of boats being intercepted.
Officials said they do not think the policy will be implemented because of conditions which have to be met and the agency’s lack of support for it.
The Border Force officer said: ‘There is fairly universal agreement that this is not likely to ever happen.
‘The captains of the cutters have control of the process and in practice, if they’re not willing to use it, it will never happen.’
The official said the force will ‘not be easily pushed about’ by the Home Secretary but it is the captain of each vessel’s decision.
An ally of Ms Patel and Conservative MP said: ‘People should be in no doubt about Priti’s determination to stop the boat crossings, whatever unionised officials say.’
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, which represents frontline Border Force staff, said the tactics were unlikely ever to be used because of the risk of killing people.
Ms Moreton said safety at sea is paramount and pushback cannot be used on a vulnerable boat. Small boats are more likely to be vulnerable.
She said the force cannot turn back a vessel in trouble unless the French are there to receive it and they won’t cooperate with the policy because they do not think it is ‘legal.’
Turnback powers are ready to be used after the prime minister gave the green light at the end of September.
Border Force has been seen off Dover practicing the tactics, involving three jet skis surrounding a migrant boat and directing it back to France.
According to guidance, the tactic can only be used in the Channel sections which are 1.8 miles wide and a commander can only agree to the procedure if it is confirmed that a French navy or rescue boat can escort the boat back.
Other safety rules must also be met including weather, sea conditions, number of migrants and size of the boat.
Dan O’Mahoney, a former commando dealing with small boats said migrants making crossings are risking their lives.
He said the team are using every tactic to bring the journeys to an end and that people should seek asylum in the first country they reach which is safe.
Mr O’Mahoney said the government’s plan for immigration will fix the system and make it firm on those who ‘abuse’ it an ‘fair’ on those in real need.